Article By Lauren Geall
~ September 2021 ~ Our relationships are intensely personal – so deciding whether or not to get involved in someone else’s can be difficult.
No one wants to watch their friend get hurt, or see them be messed around by someone who doesn’t appreciate them. But getting involved – whether that’s by sharing your opinion, giving advice or speaking to your friend’s partner directly – can often complicate things further, especially if your friend doesn’t agree with or is offended by your actions.
So, is it ever OK to step in and get involved with your friends’ relationships? And if so, when?
Ellie*, 24, believes it depends on the kind of circumstance you’re navigating. She says she doesn’t usually get involved in her friends’ relationships because “things aren’t always what they seem,” but isn’t afraid to step in when she feels like she’s really needed.
“For example, my friend and her boyfriend broke up when they were living in a shared house together in the same room, and he wouldn’t move out even though we had a spare room in the house,” she explains.
“He had broken up with her – she hadn’t wanted the breakup at all – so I thought this was really unfair and selfish and got involved by yelling at him and telling him to move out of her room.”
Ellie continues: “She didn’t appreciate it at the time but she does now. They’re actually both back together and they’re both glad I yelled at him.”
However, despite this experience, Ellie maintains that she wouldn’t get involved in most situations, because she believes “there’s a lot of grey areas to be considered” and stepping in can often make things worse overall.
“Sometimes I think getting involved and trying to stop your friend dating someone or simply raising a red flag you’ve noticed drives them further towards them and makes them bitter towards you,” she says. “In those circumstances, I think it’s better to just be there for them, be quiet, and let them figure it out on their own.”
Rachel*, 36, also thinks getting involved in a friend’s relationship can be risky – especially when it comes to the potential damage that can be caused to friendships in the process. Despite not getting along with her friend’s boyfriend, Rachel says she avoided getting involved in their relationship until it came to an end a couple of months later, at which point she revealed how she really felt.
“When it ended, myself and another mate dropped everything to be there for her while it fell apart,” she explains. “She stayed in my flat, I called in sick to be with her and (after a lot of wine and tears) we shared how we felt and suggested that maybe, despite the fact she was hurting, it was going to be for the best in the long run.”
However, Rachel’s decision to get involved in the relationship backfired when the pair got back together just a couple of months later, and her friend proceeded to ignore her calls and texts.
“I was iced out after that in a major way,” she says. “I’m sure she told him everything I said and I can imagine how that went down.”
She continues: “I’m not sorry I told the truth but I do think it can backfire badly – sometimes all your mate really wants to hear is ‘yes’, not the actual truth. It’s tough because I wanted to be real and honest about how I felt, but this ended up costing us a decade-long friendship.”
However, while staying quiet might be the best way to ‘keep the peace’ between yourself and your friend, Georgia*, 28, believes being honest about how you feel is important.
“I think there are times when you can see things your friends just can’t, and vice versa,” she says. “I’ve been in a situation where friends have held their tongues to keep the peace and not hurt my feelings, while I’ve blindly walked into a toxic, coercive and abusive relationship.”
Georgia adds: “We can be so honest with our friends about everything else – we need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable in these kinds of situations.”
If one thing’s for sure, it’s that deciding whether or not to get involved in a friend’s relationship is never going to be easy or straightforward. In these kinds of situations, there are a hundred and one different factors to consider – but doing what feels right is usually a good place to start.
* names have been changed